The company had intended to re-energize its Coca-Cola brand and the cola category in its largest market, the United States. In 1983, Coke’s market share had slipped to an all-time low of just under 24 per cent.
The firestorm ended with the return of the original formula, rebranded Coca-Cola classic, a few months later. The return of original formula Coca-Cola on July 11, 1985, put the cap on 79 days that revolutionized the soft-drink industry, and stands today as testimony to the power of taking intelligent risks, even when they don't quite work as intended.
Conspiracy theorists have gone so far as to say the whole thing had been planned as a deliberate marketing ploy to reaffirm public affection for Coca-Cola. After all, what better way to make someone appreciate the value of your global brand than to withdraw it completely?
"Some critics will say Coca-Cola made a marketing mistake, some cynics will say that we planned the whole thing," said chief operating officer Donald Keough at the time. "The truth is we are not that dumb, and we are not that smart."
We just had a wild two weeks - actually 18 days - when the world press was galvanised to see a child shackled in chains for tarnishing the name of somebody's papa. Turns out the whole exercise was just to "protect the minds of vulnerable people from corrupting influences", and “avoid sexual experimentation”. That was the court ruling on obscenity. The religious hurt was a bit murky, but the learned judge wrote in paragraph 40, page 11 of 15 pages, "It does not require proof that the religious feelings were in fact wounded." So was it a smart move to skip the elephant in the room? Was the whole thing planned as a deliberate ploy to reaffirm public affection?